Status Report

NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4020

By SpaceRef Editor
January 4, 2006
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NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4020

HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE – Continuing to collect World Class Science


PERIOD COVERED: UT January 03, 2006 (DOY 003)


ACS/HRC 10695

Coronagraphic Search for Disks around Nearby Stars

This is a search for debris disks around nearby G-type stars that have infrared excesses. The ACS coronagraph will be used with filter F606W.

ACS/WFC 10496

Decelerating and Dustfree: Efficient Dark Energy Studies with Supernovae and Clusters

We propose a novel HST approach to obtain a dramatically more useful “dust free” Type Ia supernovae {SNe Ia} dataset than available with the previous GOODS searches. Moreover, this approach provides a strikingly more efficient search-and-follow-up that is primarily pre- scheduled. The resulting dark energy measurements do not share the major systematic uncertainty at these redshifts, that of the extinction correction with a prior. By targeting massive galaxy clusters at z > 1 we obtain a five-times higher efficiency in detection of Type Ia supernovae in ellipticals, providing a well-understood host galaxy environment. These same deep cluster images then also yield fundamental calibrations required for future weak lensing and Sunyaev-Zel’dovich measurements of dark energy, as well as an entire program of cluster studies. The data will make possible a factor of two improvement on supernova constraints on dark energy time variation, and much larger improvement in systematic uncertainty. They will provide both a cluster dataset and a SN Ia dataset that will be a longstanding scientific resource.

ACS/WFC 10543

Microlensing in M87 and the Virgo Cluster

Resolving the nature of dark matter is an urgent problem. The results of the MACHO survey of the Milky Way dark halo toward the LMC indicate that a significant fraction of the halo consists of stellar mass objects. The VATT/Columbia survey of M31 finds a similar lens fraction in the M31 dark halo. We propose a series of observations with ACS that will provide the most thorough search for microlensing toward M87, the central elliptical galaxy of the Virgo cluster. This program is optimized for lenses in the mass range from 0.01 to 1.0 solar masses. By comparing with archival data, we can detect lenses as massive as 100 solar masses, such as the remnants of the first stars. These observations will have at least 15 times more sensitivity to microlensing than any previous survey, e.g. using WFPC2. This is due to the factor of 2 larger area, factor of more than 4 more sensitivity in the I-band, superior pixel scale and longer baseline of observations. Based on the halo microlensing results in the Milky Way and M31, we might expect that galaxy collisions and stripping would populate the overall cluster halo with a large number of stellar mass objects. This program would determine definitively if such objects compose the cluster dark matter at the level seen in the Milky Way. A negative result would indicate that such objects do not populate the intracluster medium, and may indicate that galaxy harassment is not as vigorous as expected. We can measure the level of events due to the M87 halo: this would be the best exploration to date of such a lens population in an elliptical galaxy. Star-star lensing should also be detectable. About 20 erupting classical novae will be seen, allowing to determine the definitive nova rate for this giant elliptical galaxy. We will determine if our recent HST detection of an M87 globular cluster nova was a fluke, or indicative of a 100x higher rate of incidence of cataclysmic variables and nova eruptions in globulars than previously believed. We will examine the populations of variable stars, and will be able to cleanly separate them from microlensing.

ACS/WFC 10580

A tip of the red giant branch distance to NGC 4038/39 {The Antennae}

We propose to use ACS to determine a tip of the red giant branch {TRGB} distance to the merger system archetype NGC4038/39 {“The Antennae”}. This system is the closest major merger to us, but its distance remains a point of debate, with proposed values ranging from 14 to 33 Mpc. Our previous HST/WFPC2 V, I band observation targeted the star forming {SF} regions near the tip of the southern tail of NGC4038. These data revealed a background population of red stars far from SF regions which we identify as RGB stars. The TRGB was detected near our completeness limit at about 26.5 mag, suggesting a distance of 13.8+/-1.7 Mpc, 30% lower than the most accepted distance of 21 Mpc, and less than half the distance of 29 Mpc adopted to characterize the “ultraluminous X-ray binaries” {UXB} sources discovered in recent Chandra observations by Fabbiano et al. {2001}. The lower distance has profound implications for the mass and luminosities of all sources associated with The Antennae, such as the Tidal Dwarf candidates, the globular cluster system, and the UXB population. With its greater sensitivity and higher resolution, ACS can resolve this issue in just a few orbits. We therefore request seven orbits to obtain V, I band images of the southern tail of NGC4038/39 to reach 1.6 mag lower than the TRGB, for our proposed distance modulus. Even if the larger distance is the correct one, our proposed imaging would still give a robust distance constraint from the TRGB.

ACS/WFC 10588

The Host Galaxies of Post-Starburst Quasars

We propose to use ACS to conduct a snapshot imaging survey of post-starburst quasars now being discovered in signficant numbers by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Post-starburst quasars are broad-lined AGN that also possess Balmer jumps and high-n Balmer absorption lines indicative of luminous stellar populations on order of 100 Myr old. These objects, representing a few percent of the z < 0.5 quasar population, may be an evolutionary stage in the transition of ultraluminous infrared galaxies into normal quasars, or a type of galaxy interaction that triggers both star formation and nuclear activity. These sources may also illustrate how black hole mass/bulge mass correlations arise. Ground-based imaging of individual poststarburst quasars has revealed merger remnants, binary systems, and single point sources. Our ACS snapshots will enable us to determine morphologies and binary structure on sub-arcsecond scales {surely present in the sample and impossible to do without HST}, as well as basic host galaxy properties. We will be looking for relationships among morphology, particularly separation of double nuclei, the starburst age, the quasar black hole mass and accretion rate, that will lead to an understanding of the triggering activity and mutual evolution. This project will bring quantitative data and statistics to the previously fuzzy and anecdotal topic of the "AGN-starburst connection" and help test the idea that post-starburst quasars are an early evolutionary stage of normal quasars.


Life Before the Fall: Morphological Evolution of Galaxies in Groups Prior to Cluster Assembly at z=0.37

We propose to obtain a deep ACS/WFC mosaic of a protocluster comprised of 4 distinct galaxy groups that are gravitationally bound to each other at z=0.37. The galaxy groups have a total combined mass comparable to the Coma cluster and already have twice as many absorption line galaxies as the field. The SG1120 complex thus provides an unprecedented opportunity for determining whether “pre-processing” in the group environment is responsible for the bulk of observed diffences between galaxies in nearby clusters and those in the field. High resolution imaging with HST is needed to morphologically classify the group members and measure their structural parameters. By combining the early-type fraction and morphology-density relation in SG1120 with results from our wide-field spectroscopic survey, we will test whether spectral and morphological transformation timescales are decoupled on group scales and isolate the environmental mechanisms responsible for such evolution. We will also measure the Fundamental Plane and M/L ratios of the early-type members to constrain their formation epoch and how their stellar populations have evolved. Observations of the multiple galaxy groups in SG1120 provide a unique dataset to the community and will aid our understanding of how galaxies evolve in the still poorly studied group regime.

NIC1/NIC2/NIC3 8792

NICMOS Post-SAA calibration – CR Persistence Part 3

A new procedure proposed to alleviate the CR-persistence problem of NICMOS. Dark frames will be obtained immediately upon exiting the SAA contour 23, and every time a NICMOS exposure is scheduled within 50 minutes of coming out of the SAA. The darks will be obtained in parallel in all three NICMOS Cameras. The POST-SAA darks will be non-standard reference files available to users with a USEAFTER date/time mark. The keyword ‘USEAFTER=date/time’ will also be added to the header of each POST-SAA DARK frame. The keyword must be populated with the time, in addition to the date, because HST crosses the SAA ~8 times per day so each POST-SAA DARK will need to have the appropriate time specified, for users to identify the ones they need. Both the raw and processed images will be archived as POST-SAA DARKSs. Generally we expect that all NICMOS science/calibration observations started within 50 minutes of leaving an SAA will need such maps to remove the CR persistence from the science images. Each observation will need its own CRMAP, as different SAA passages leave different imprints on the NICMOS detectors.

WFPC2 10745


This calibration proposal is the Cycle 14 routine internal monitor for WFPC2, to be run weekly to monitor the health of the cameras. A variety of internal exposures are obtained in order to provide a monitor of the integrity of the CCD camera electronics in both bays {both gain 7 and gain 15 — to test stability of gains and bias levels}, a test for quantum efficiency in the CCDs, and a monitor for possible buildup of contaminants on the CCD windows. These also provide raw data for generating annual super-bias reference files for the calibration pipeline.


Significant Spacecraft Anomalies: (The following are preliminary reports of potential non-nominal performance that will be investigated.)

HSTARS: (None)



FGS GSacq 09 09
FGS REacq 05 05
OBAD with Maneuver 25 25


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